Long before the Dutch-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign, abortion rights have been a controversial topic all over the world and history has seen many restrictive laws be both introduced and abolished. Such an occurrence took place right here in The Netherlands in just 1981 with women and men alike campaigning across the nation for the right to an abortion. As a result, abortion for women up to 24 weeks pregnant was legalised in 1984. It was a huge step from a once restrictive policy for those experiencing an unwanted pregnancy in The Netherlands and it is legislation such as this which gives the country its international status as a liberal nation.
Meanwhile in Ireland, legislation remained a step behind with the introduction of the eighth amendment in 1983. According to this article of the Irish Constitution, the life of the foetus is of equal importance to that of the mother. This therefore equated abortion to the killing of the unborn, an equation that remains, at least legally, to this day in Ireland. Any woman accused of receiving an abortion in Ireland can face up to 14 years incarceration, which means that an Irish women seeking an abortion has no choice but to fly either to the UK or The Netherlands to receive treatment legally. The eighth amendment stands in cases of rape, mental illness and foetal abnormality and before 2013, even in cases where the life of the mother was at risk.
Meet the Dutch-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign
However, like The Netherlands in 1983, Ireland has now been hit by a wave of movement: the Repeal The Eighth Campaign (#RepealTheEighth). The movement is to remove the eighth amendment from the Irish constitution which would therefore make abortion available to Irish women. 2017 and 18 has seen the wave for repeal not just hit the island of Ireland, but cities around the world. With thousands of Irish citizens living abroad, the outcry for change can be heard across the globe. Including in The Netherlands.
Detrimental in raising support and awareness for this movement throughout The Netherlands is The Dutch-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign. It is an organisation based in Utrecht which “brings together Irish people in The Netherlands who care about #RepealTheEighth.” The group of Irish expats has organised several fundraisers, information meetings and gatherings for the Irish citizens living in The Netherlands who want to get involved and advocate for “pro-choice” the belief that women have the right to choose whether or not they want an abortion.
Making a difference: #HomeToVote
We heard from Leah Corbett, one of the organisers of the campaign, and here is what she had to say: “We were motivated to form the Dutch-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign because we feel strongly about the need to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution in order to grant women in Ireland bodily autonomy, which they are currently denied. Ireland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world- this is something which we hope to change with the upcoming Referendum.”
“Living in the Netherlands where abortion has been legal since 1984 has allowed us to observe a system in which women have the right to make their own choices about their bodies. Living abroad meant that we could not participate directly with the events taking place in Ireland, so we decided to take action and do what we could to support the campaign. Our aim is to raise awareness about the campaign through fundraising and advocating #HomeToVote.”
The majority of Irish expats are unable to vote by post and so, through raising awareness, the campaigners hope to encourage expats to fly #HomeToVote. This is going to be difficult as the ‘expected’ date of the referendum is May 25th but there is also the possibility that it could be moved to June 8th. It is through campaigns such as The Dutch-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign, that many Irish citizens can remain up to date on the movements of the referendum.
Most importantly, it raises the question that all Irish expats need to be asked, will you be coming #HomeToVote?